When she started her journey as a young judoka, Victoria Kirk, had no idea that it would lead to her travelling across the country refereeing at numerous different types of Judo events.

Ahead of our referee course this Saturday, we spoke to her about the benefits of refereeing, how she became involved and her aim to referee internationally.

“When I was 21, I had a bit of an injury which led to me taking time out of competing, judo has been a huge part of my upbringing with my dad, brother and partner all being involved in the sport so I still wanted to be involved and taking up refereeing kept me busy in the sport”.

“I first got into it (refereeing) by going to low-level competitions and that gave me some experience refereeing on the mat.”

Victoria then attended JudoScotland referee courses to achieve the necessary qualifications to continue her refereeing journey:

“I did a few courses which helped build up my knowledge and they were good fun. You get to meet other people and they give you the knowledge that you need to be better at judo in general. It doesn’t just help you in being a referee – it helps you better understand your own judo, improves your coaching, and helps you become better at supporting other people. As referees, we’re there to support each other and work as a team no matter where you come from.”

Victoria alongside Kirsty Lyon and Audrey Pirie at the IBSA World Games in Birmingham.

During her time in the sport, Victoria has seen a widespread change in how judo referees operate: “We’ve come away from the age where ‘what I say goes’. Referees are now communicating with judokas and explaining their decision. In turn that makes everybody work together. No referee is going there to make things difficult for people, we’re going there to help Judoka achieve the correct outcome and if you can communicate that by having the right knowledge you’ll make responsible decisions, and make friends along the way while helping people enjoy the sport.”

Victoria has also seen the benefits that becoming a referee has had outside the dojo. As a social worker, she’s been able to transfer valuable communication skills to the workplace: “It’s helped me communicate with people who may be upset. Judo competitions can create heightened emotions and in my line of work I’ve had to help people with high emotions as well, so it has helped keep me calm in these sorts of situations. Before I started refereeing people around me might have said I was a bit hot-headed, but now I’m calmer, as I can see from other people’s points of view.”

After succeeding in her promotion to National B referee at the British Schools Championship in March this year, Victoria’s sights are firmly set on achieving the next step. “It was inspiring to see fellow Scottish referee Audrey Pirie become the first female National A referee in the country. It has given me a drive to go and get that badge which will allow me to referee internationally and work at events across the world.”

To anyone considering taking their first steps into the world of refereeing, Victoria’s advice is simple: “Just go in and try it! Try it with confidence, come and speak to all the referees as they’ll be happy to give out any advice they can. It’s so worth it!”

If you are interested in starting your journey to refereeing and officiating, click here to sign up for this weekend’s course.